How to survive the day as a working sleep-deprived mum

Woman lying in bed - Sleep-deprived mum
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Are you a sleep-deprived mum, battling through your working day? After having a new baby, I googled away constantly for coping mechanisms, but they were all geared towards how to get your little one to sleep.

What if none of that works, you’re barely getting any sleep and struggling to get through the day? And even worse, how is a sleep-deprived mum supposed to do a full day of work when she’s still not getting decent kip?

There is plenty of advice out there on how to improve your baby or toddler sleep problems and sometimes it is helpful. But just when you think it’s sorted, there’s something else that keeps them waking whether it be teething, sickness, nightmares or wanting another cuddle or five…

I’ve also found it patronising to read general sleep articles advising how many hours of sleep we need at minimum to function, as we all have a choice. If you are having a hard time as a sleep-deprived mum, so much you read just make you feel worse!

This post is simply for you as a sleep-deprived mum who needs helpful tips to get you through the working day after another brutal night. You are not alone. And you will make it through…

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Eat well

As a sleep-deprived mum, I find I’m left feeling in a similar condition to my partying life back in the day e.g. feeling rough and hungover. I’m definitely not drinking anymore (who needs a genuine hangover on top of sleep deprivation?) but I feel like I’ve had a night on the shots.

If you feel the same, I would recommend a similar response to a hangover to get yourself through the day. No I don’t mean a greasy full breakfast. You need plenty of good food and lots of water to replenish yourself.

The sorts of foods that will help you feel better will provide a balance of energy, comfort and lots of nutrients. Depending on your dietary preferences, consider meals such as salmon, quinoa and vegetables, or a brown pasta meal with your choice of protein. Include some snacks too such as fruit, crackers and healthy smoothies.

You will feel so much better for filling yourself with good, nutritious food. Don’t just cave and load up on carbs and sugar. And go easy the caffeine, which is up next my fellow sleep-deprived mum…

Go easy on the caffeine

You will be thinking of your next coffee while you’re still drinking the first, but go easy. Remember that caffeine stays in your system for hours and leaves you wired. It’s fine to enjoy one in the morning but you don’t want to be having cup after cup.

You also want to protect your precious sleep later tonight (or a nap opportunity in the day if you can manage it, see below) so keep control of the caffeine hit.

Remember caffeine is in other food and drink items too such as chocolate and some fizzy drinks. It is also in tea of course, and many feel it’s not as strong as coffee but it can add up. Switch to decaf tea after lunchtime to protect your sleep later.

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Sleep deprived mum

Grab a nap or rest your eyes

You’ll be more than familiar with that annoying saying “sleep when the baby sleeps”! from when you were at home with your newborn (I personally really struggled with daytime naps). Well, now you’ve got work to do so you won’t have the luxury of catching up on sleep properly.

Maybe you can lie down briefly if you drop your baby or toddler off at childcare and have a window before work starts. Or perhaps you could take a little catnap at lunchtime, if you’re the type that can nap as and when you like.

If you struggle with naps, try to at least lie down and take a rest. Depending on your working hours and demands, if you’re able to take a little time out, you will feel better for it. Whether you have 10 minutes, half an hour or even a longer window, then use that to rest your body and mind.

You could also try meditating in this time. If you’re new to it, then read more about the practice with a beginner’s guide. Headspace is a brilliant app to start with too.

Otherwise, you can simply lie down and “relax your eyes” as they say which takes the pressure out of trying to get to sleep. Sometimes I do fall asleep unexpectedly anyway and that’s a nice surprise! But even if you just use the time to rest, it’s so beneficial.

You can get some noise cancelling headphones to tune out distractions and zone out with an eye mask. You can even get some special relaxation masks with built-in headphones for the full sleep, nap or meditation experience if you find it hard to switch off.

Get outside

The idea of facing the outdoor world when all you want to do is put your feet up sounds unappealing, but I’ve always been surprised by how much better I feel, even on a shocking amount of sleep.

Although you are low energy and dreaming of sleep, try a walk outdoors. The daylight and fresh air can really lift your spirits and a little gentle exercise does wonders for a sleep-deprived mum.

If you’re feeling more ambitious then you could do a proper morning or lunchtime workout but do make sure you have enough strength, as you may be weak or prone to accident on little sleep.

Read more on ways to exercise outdoors for added benefits or if you’re a remote worker, read about how to sneak in exercise when you work from home.

Sleep-deprived mum
Photo by Kevin Liang on Unsplash

Get to bed early

We all deserve an evening of Netflix once the little one has finally gone down. But you know how it goes. You relax into it, you binge episodes, and then it’s silly o’clock and you’ve got some night waking and an early start ahead, so grab some kip early.

If you get to bed early, even with night wakes, you have a better chance of clocking up more hours in total. It won’t always be like this. You will get evenings back at some stage.

A super annoying problem I often have, is struggling to sleep when my daughter actually sleeps through! After some brutal patches of lost sleep, my daughter will finally give me a break here and there, and those are the nights I’m wide awake, tossing and turning.

It’s not full on insomnia but it’s an annoying restlessness, almost as if my body is so used to disturbed sleep, I can’t sleep through myself anymore. Typical. But it does pass eventually.

Use the above to survive your day as a sleep-deprived mum…

So there you have some top tips on how to survive your day as a sleep-deprived mum. It’s particularly brutal when you have to face a full day at work but the above ideas should help you get through it.

If you’re home-based then do read practicing self-care while working from home as well as how to work from home with a baby or toddler around unexpectedly, as that’s a whole other minefield!

If you are lucky enough to work from home or have flexibility in your hours, you will find the above more much easier to implement. But you still need to prioritise self-care and find me time as a working from home mum.

If you are struggling at work due to your sleep, you may want to talk to your manager or HR to see if you can build in some flexibility or take some short notice leave days to recover. Read more about discussing your new need to work from home more and flexibility after you return to work after maternity leave.

Do you use any of these and manage to get through your day as a sleep-deprived mum? Let me know what works for you, or what you want to try next in the comments.

You should also read the complimentary post of finding your own alternative baby bedtime routine if you have a newborn (don’t worry, it’s not about miracle solutions, just about reducing stress at bedtime).

It really is exhausting when you have babies and toddlers so do try and take care of yourself and manage your mental health, which is naturally affected when you’re a sleep-deprived mum. Reach out to your GP or health provider if you need more professional help, as you don’t need to suffer alone.

The information provided is for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. This site is not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information.

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